With winter upon us, now is the time to think about preparing your vehicle for the coldest months of the year. Driving conditions in winter can be testing, so you need to go into the season confident that your vehicle is in the best possible condition and won’t let you down. Here we’ll be exploring the top maintenance and preparation checks you need to carry out, to ensure your car or van is ready for the winter.
Check the battery
Your vehicle’s battery should be the number one priority. During the winter, this part takes a double hit from cold temperatures and the increased use of lights and heaters, so it’s best to get it checked before a cold snap. Batteries typically last around five years, so if your battery is already struggling then it’s worth getting it changed.
Put antifreeze in your engine coolant
Your engine coolant should be a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze, going into the colder months. Sometimes people make the mistake of topping up the coolant with water over the summer, but this can dilute the antifreeze to the point where it becomes ineffective. An over-heated and damaged engine can be very costly, so always top up with antifreeze in equal measure.
Cars use more fuel in cold weather, especially in stop/start conditions, there is also some risk when adverse weather affects your journey that it will take longer to travel. You may consider filling up more regularly to ensure you have enough fuel to reach your destination.
Check your tyres
Your car’s tyres are essential to steering and braking when the roads become icy, so check the pressure and tread depth before any adverse weather sets in. The legal minimum is 1.6mm, but 3mm will give you better grip on the roads. Even better, you could invest in a set of winter tyres, which cope better in slush, snow and ice.
Clean your lights
Evenings draw in early in the autumn and winter, meaning reduced visibility. You should check all your lights are in good working order, including brake lights, fog lights and main beam lights. Give them a good clean, so you know you’ll be able to see and be seen when driving in the dark.
Check for windscreen cracks
Cracks to your windscreen can spread quickly in cold weather, so check that there are no chips or cracks which could cause problems further down the line. It’s always worth investing in a new windscreen rather than taking the risk – it could prove dangerous and more costly not to act.
Clean your wipers and windscreen
Clean your windscreen inside and out, because low winter sun or other drivers’ headlights can produce glare which makes it hard to see. If you have a grubby windscreen then you can find it difficult to drive. You should also top up your screen washer fluid reservoirs with antifreeze, to stop the blades from sticking on frosty glass.
Carry an essential breakdown kit
No matter how far you’re driving, always carry a bag of essentials. Whether you’re simply popping to the supermarket or are undertaking a hundred mile drive, a winter kit in the boot of the car can be a lifesaver in the event of a breakdown. Before you travel, pack food and drink supplies, a fully charged smartphone, a blanket, a high-vis vest, a shovel and sturdy walking shoes, in case you need to walk to safety.
With a little forward planning, you can get your vehicle ready for winter and drive safely over the coming months.